By Daniel Vlasaty
I just want to be completely honest here and say I don’t like wrestling. I’ve never liked it, not even in the 90s when literally everyone liked it. I never saw the appeal of it. It just seemed so ridiculously dramatic and very clearly fake. But everyone knew it was fake and pretended it wasn’t. Or they didn’t care. I have no fucking idea. It just wasn’t my thing, I guess. And I think this is the reason why I never read a single issue of Ringside before last night. This is a review of issue #11 but I didn’t want to go in completely blind so before reading this new issue, I also read the first 10 issues.
Much to my surprise Ringside isn’t really a “wrestling” book. I mean, yes, I get it, it kind of is. But, really it’s just more about these characters, some of which happen to be wrestlers. What I’m most surprised about, though, is that it’s actually a pretty tight little noir story. What makes it noir, in my opinion, is that there aren’t clear “good” guys and “bad” guys. There are just guys. The bad guys are also good and the good guys have some bad in them. They are people trying their best to better themselves, whether that means getting a shot at a title match or just being able to pay off your ex’s drug debt. It means trying. Because what else is there?
Issue #11 follows the same layout as the rest, mixing a few different storylines to add a different perspective and rocket up the tension. And, man, let me tell you. This is a tense book. This is the kind of book, that if it was a movie, it would be a lot long dialogue pauses and gravelly voices. The shadows would be full of smoke.
This is the start of the third story arc and it begins right where the last one left off. Davis still seems miserable in Florida. Dan Knossos is coming into his own as a real balls-out tough guy. Reynolds is beating himself up for fucking up his Acolyte role. And Ragan is learning the shit side to Hollywood.
I read a another review of an earlier issue that compared Ringside to a Coen Brothers’ movie and I think that’s a fitting categorization. That’s because like their movies, Ringside is more about the characters than it is anything else. It’s more about how these characters react to certain situations than it is the situations themselves. These are the kind of stories I like. Character stories. I would much rather have good and interesting and complex characters than interesting scenarios with flat/boring/what-the-fuck-ever characters.
It’s hard for me to compare how issue #11 holds up against the rest of the issues, because I read the whole thing at one time. I didn’t follow the book along with its two years of being published, waiting month after month for the next issue. I’m coming to it now and everything is new and good and solid. Joe Keatinge is writing a moody and temperate story. It’s violent and ugly and, really, that’s the world we live in.
At first I didn’t like Nick Barber’s art. The line work seemed kind of shaky and unsure of itself. Everything was clunky and unfinished-looking. Sloppy is maybe a good word for it. But I did notice as I continued to read through all 11 current issues that the art got better. Or at least I began to enjoy it more. It fits the story. It’s stylistic. The tone and moodiness of the book are captured perfectly in the art. But where the art really shines is in Simon Gough’s colors. The shadows are shadows you’d expect from a noir story. It is all dark and dreary. And if “noir” had a color palette this would be it. It’s cool and neon-y purple and pink and blue. Light and dark at the same time.
This book initially came off as a book for wrestling fans. But as the issues wore on it has become more of a straight crime book. There’re still wrestling sub-plots but they’re more subdued. This is a story of heartbreak and hardships. This is a story of what happens when your dreams don’t come true. This is a story of life and how hard that shit can be at times.